NHB630

NHB630

Audiophile Crossovers

AUDIOPHILE CROSSOVERS

Active crossovers means the system has to have an amplifier for each  driver.

Many people have been amazed and delighted with the Behringer DCX2496. Its capabilities are truly incredible and the flexibility and ease of configuration (once you get on top of the steep learning curve) have been a joy to many audiophiles and more than a few speaker designers. With pricing under $300 its price/capability ratio is off the scale. Somewhat spotty QC and problematic distribution policies have been the flies in the ointment. However, quality may be improving over the past few years and the price hasn't budged.  Note that several companies upgrade the Behringers for improved sound quality.

There are other similar products.  Here is a summary of the crossovers we know of. Most are from the pro world and require XLR connectors but Marchand is a well-known audiophile supplier. 

DBX DriveRack PA - Complete EQ And Loudspeaker Management System 

Stereo 3 way xover, one source analog only inputs, parametric capability, pink noise generator,  gain control on inputs and outputs, phase adjustment

Peavey VSX 26 

Stereo 3 way xover, 3 inputs analog and digital, parametric eq capability, pink, white noise, sine generator, crossover types fully adjustable Butterworth, Bessel, Linkwitz-Riley, 5 degree phase adjustment, Real Time Analyzer 

KlarkTeknik DN3848E 

Stereo 4 way xover, 4 inputs analog and digital, parametric eq capability, pink, white noise, sine generator, crossover types fully adjustable Butterworth, Bessel, Linkwitz-Riley, 5 degree phase adjustment Input and output gain control

ElectroVoice Dx38 

Stereo 2 way xover, 1 inputs analog only, parametric eq capability, pink noise generator, crossover types fully adjustable Butterworth, Bessel, Linkwitz-Riley, 5 degree phase adjustment Input and Output gain control 

Real Time Analyzer

Marchand

Completely variable configurations in analog only with solid state and tube options. Custom crossover cards, Newform crossover cards readily available.

DBX DriveRack PA

Stereo 3 way xover, 1 input analog and digital, parametric eq capability, crossover types fully adjustable Butterworth, Bessel, Linkwitz-Riley, 5 degree phase adjustment.

DEQX

DEQX offers both digital crossovers and room correction with pre-amp capabilities.

Tact / Lyngdorf

Tact may be gone but there is a large overlap of capability with Lyngdorf.  Peter Lyngdorf was a principal in the Tact startup so there is no lack of experience in the design of Lyngdorf products which feature digital crossovers and room correction.

Hypex

 Hypex produces a broad range of amplifiers, some of which incorporate fairly sophisticated crossovers.

www.hypex.nl

Onkyo

Onkyo is now building some basic crossover capability into several of it's receivers.  Combined with the quite sophisticated Audyssey room correction, it can produce superb results.

www.onkyo.com

 

Basics of High End Audio

Or - How to get great sound while avoiding the technology blackhole.

The world of high end audio is a very murky place for many interested in music and high performance home entertainment systems. Unlike video where a shopper can clearly see differences in performance between different sets, high end audio forces a person to evaluate performance in a much more complicated way. Volume levels, source components, amplifiers, cables - you name it - there are a huge number of variables. How do you know what you are really listening to? Not only that, competing technologies and formats and equipment priced at astonishing levels make you wonder if a reasonable choice is possible at all. 

When you buy a TV, what you see in the store is just about what you will get in your home once the set or projector is properly calibrated. With audio, all of the components are different and your room is certainly not the demo room. 

Very experienced audiophiles can pick their way through these issues. But how does the inexperienced audio shopper with visions of the enjoying real music or life-like movies in the home make the right series of choices? How can Newform Research help in delivering a dynamite system for less than stupid money? And without tearing the house apart? 

Newform makes a unique line of new technology loudspeakers which will produce superb sound quality in most average rooms. The investment in electronics to drive our loudspeakers can be quite small and still achieve excellent results. Having said that, the better the source components are, the better the sound will be. There is a price ceiling however beyond which there is probably no acoustic benefit. Above $10,000 in electronics, "prestige" and flim flam are the items being purchased. Newform Research Ribbon loudspeakers will not restrict the performance of your system. See our "You Can't Go Wrong" page for ideas on systems and various levels of packages. 

Are Ribbon loudspeakers a valid and current design approach? Over the past 30 years the most experienced audiophiles and music lovers have coveted Ribbon and electrostatic loudspeakers as the first choice for their dream systems. Real world considerations may force compromising on conventional dome/box loudspeakers but once knowledgeable audiophiles have heard a good planar loudspeaker, they have been dissatisfied with anything else. 

Transparency, detail and you-are-there soundstaging are the principal qualities that have separated planars from conventional speakers. The clean sheet Ribbon technology from Newform delivers the best sound qualities of the finest planars in room friendly systems that can be driven by very modest electronics. Our wide dispersion columnar radiation pattern is more likely to deliver superb sound in more normal rooms, for more people, than large dipoles (sound comes out the front and rear), horn loudspeakers or dome tweeter systems. Our Ribbons have excellent room coverage but minimize fatiguing reflections from the floor and ceiling so the soundstage stays three dimensional and clearly focused. 

Many higher end loudspeaker manufacturers are moving to small Ribbon tweeters. These are certainly an advance over their past designs but with their short heights, high crossovers points and baffle mounting, they fail to utilize a great deal of the potential realized in Newforms large, free standing Ribbon systems. 

Our new Coaxial Ribbon LineSource designs come in at higher price levels than we have occupied before but they offer significant improvements in both fidelity and practicality over most loudspeakers, regardless of price- conventional or planar - in most listening rooms. They are just as electronics friendly as our other speakers and thus, for $15,000 total system cost, it is possible to atain ultra system performance. 

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET INTO HIGH END AUDIO

Your room must accommodate high quality loudspeakers and a reasonably favourable setup involving both the loudspeaker placement and the listening position. This typically means a room 10' x 14' or better. For dedicated rooms, you can start out slightly smaller. 

You have to have a system budget of $2500 plus. A lot of money to the uninitiated but a laughably small amount for the jaded audiophile. However, a pair of R630s or LineSource Monitors, with a $200 DVD player and a modest receiver (say Panasonic XR57 for $400) will deliver very, very decent sound in a reasonable room. Such has been the progress in the electronics world in recent years. 

You have to have a kernel of real commitment. No matter how much you spend, or how perfect your room is, you will have to plan a little bit and do some experimentation before any system can start operating near its potential. We will work with you on the planning and be there to offer suggestions on optimizing your system.

You don't have to bleed for fine music in the home. Some quiet reflection plus several minutes on the phone with our designer can quickly lead to the development of a simple and successful strategy. 

Once you realize what is substance and what is smoke, achieving great sound on a reasonable budget is very easy. Tearing yourself away from the music then becomes the difficult part. 

Subwoofer Setup

Seamless subwoofer integration requires the sub to be placed in the location which minimizes room modes and also produces the fewest cancellations with the main speakers. 

As always, get the physical issues optimized and the electronics will have a lot less processing to do. 

Listed below are some of the high end subwoofers which almost guarantee excellent bottom end performance. 

Older design subs take a little more work. Many include lossy passive crossovers which roll off the main speakers but rob a good deal of transparency. Use these with extreme reluctance! 

Many receivers have bass management which forces a high 80Hz crossover. You should aim for as low a crossover point as your main speakers can safely handle. 

In the end, any of these systems will produce superb results with Newform Ribbon loudspeakers, especially the new LineSource models as crossovers can be very low and in many cases, the main speakers can be run full bandwidth. 

Different room correction and integration systems from different subwoofer manufacturers may produce different results depending on room size and the problems the systems are called upon to fix. This has to do with how the systems handle long time delays in larger or open rooms. However, in “good” rooms, it is unlikely that the results will be anything less than excellent with any of the systems listed below. 

Velodyne is a famous subwoofer maker for good reason. We have used their subs at a number of shows and now they come with very sophisticated integration and self-equalization systems. Their approach is unlikely to be significantly improved upon in a decent room. 

www.velodyne.com/products/product.aspx?ID=35&sid=572l880v 

Paradigm is a speaker manufacturer with an excellent name for great subwoofers at great prices. Their Anthem division produces quite sophisticated processors and amplifiers and their expertise has been applied to their subwoofers. 

www.paradigm.com/en/paradigm/subwoofers-paradigmperfectbasskit(pbk1)-series-1-5-30.paradigm 

Our perennial favourite product for biggest bang for the buck, the Behringer DCX2496 is a sound reinforcement digital crossover with an incredible array of capabilities. If your subwoofer does not have room correction or a sophisticated crossover built in, then the DCX2496 will offer the next best thing. It is an extremely sophisticated crossover with some basic room correction capability via parametric EQ. It has a steep learning curve but being able to modify settings in the most minute detail on the run is a huge plus. Nothing comes close for the money. 

www.behringer.com/EN/Products/DCX2496.aspx 

Maybe the most elegant solution of all, the Tact gear has digital crossovers built into their digital amplifiers. As well, probably the worlds most sophisticated room correction is built into their preamp processors. They don’t come cheap but by audiophile standards, the price for this capability is very reasonable when you boil it all out. 

www.tactlab.com/AutomaticRC/automaticRC.html 

A sophisticated digital crossover with room correction system, the DEQX hails from Australia is very well regarded. It does as much as the Behringer in the crossover department and adds full room correction. It is also reputed to sound a bit better than the Behringer due to its higher grade DACs. It is also over 5 times the price.  

www.deqx.com  

Major mass consumer electronics brands are now offering room correction and more sophisticated bass management in their receivers. In the past, these have been less than ideally implemented but keep an open mind because these companies have plenty of resources and they are now in the realm of digital where everything gets better and cheaper at the same time. Mostly. 

Loudspeakers Unsurpassed in Soundstage, Transparency, Detail and Dynamics in High End Stereo and Home Theater Systems

Speech Intelligibility

Many people notice their hearing declining as they grow older. 

Hearing loss does come with age but that is no reason to abandon music. Reduced speech intelligibility can be disconcerting but musical appreciation does not suffer with age. In fact, music can add a great deal to the enjoyment of life. 

High resolution audio is a weapon against middle age hearing loss just as a good workout is a good defence against heart disease. 

The cleaner music is, the less stressful and more satisfying it will be to listen to.   Like moving from a crowded, noisy room to a quiet environment, a well setup high end audio system will delivery a relaxed, intelligible, and highly musical experience. 

Ways to improve intelligibility include elimination of noise sources and reduction of strong and discordant reflections. Strong slap echo becomes more disconcerting as age increases so take extra care to reduce, damp or break up bare walls or glass surfaces. 

LineSources (line arrays) and Ribbons dramatically reduce the ceiling and floor slap echo to which conventional dome tweeter based systems are prone. 

Listening fatigue and intelligibility are inversely proportional.   In a public forum poor intelligibility results in loss of focus of the audience and a much less effective presentation.   In a home environment, lack of clarity results in progressively less time spent enjoying music and movies.

Our hearing changes over the course of our lives and so does our sensitivity to certain types of noise and response anomalies. We can’t fix, but we can re-adjust effectively. 

Loudspeakers Unsurpassed in Soundstage, Transparency, Detail and Dynamics in High End Stereo and Home Theater Systems

 

Loudspeaker Reviews

Unless backed up by methodical and appropriate measurements, loudspeaker reviews can be very unreliable.

Acoustic measurements which reliably represent human perception of loudspeaker performance have yet to be developed. The basics are clearly in place though. Smooth frequency response both on and off axis, low driver distortion, low speaker cabinet colouration are all well established prerequisites for excellent performance. 

The variables from there however are many. Clearly some speakers perform better in some rooms than in others and some are designed for specific placements. 

Dispersion patterns and driver placements on the baffle have a dramatic effect on measured response at different microphone positions and distances. Reviewers who insist on a standard measuring position or distance that the speaker is not recommended for, can seriously mis-represent a loudspeakers performance. 

Distortion is something we have always assumed was a critical indicator of sound fidelity. However, once it drops down to a certain level, it ceases to be a reliable indicator. Note the Panasonic digital amp receivers which Newform has so often endorsed. The distortion on the original XR45 model was 0.9% at its rated output of 100w/ channel. On this basis alone, the receiver would be laughed out of any room populated by audiophiles. However, upon hearing the receivers, many experienced audiophiles dumped their much more expensive, better measuring and well reviewed amplifiers for these cheap little lightweight receivers. 

Ditto tube amplifiers which also add, in many cases, alarming departures from flat frequency response. But many rational people still love them! 

Everyone hears differently and everyone listens for different things. Be very careful when a reviewer waxes poetic about a loudspeaker (or other audio component) whose measured response looks highly flawed. 

Ditto for reviews conducted in poor listening rooms. Rooms that are highly unrepresentative of the average room have to be viewed as Distorting the review. If the reviewer doesn’t describe his room, and you are seriously considering the speakers based on his opinion, by all means email him and ask about his listening conditions. 

Loudspeaker reviewing, whether in print or on the web, is a highly variable process so get as much background as possible on the reviews of loudspeakers which really interest you. 

Loudspeakers Unsurpassed in Soundstage, Transparency, Detail and Dynamics in High End Stereo and Home Theater Systems

Loudspeaker Merit

SPEAKERS OF MERIT

There are over 3000 different hifi stereo and home theater loudspeakers on the audio market at any one time in North America and Europe. 

Of those 3000, only a very small proportion hold any interest for audiophiles. Once the models designed to hit a low price point are taken out along with units whose aesthetics were more of a consideration than their acoustic design are eliminated, the list gets a great deal shorter.

Drop the cheapies and the throw-together from available parts and you have maybe a few hundred speakers which are well designed and well executed.

Of those few hundred, only a few score are exceptional. Loudspeaker designs have been improving steadily and there are quite a few excellent implementations of classic designs and a handful of novel designs which actually work well. 

However, some speaker designers and more likely their marketing departments keep on dredging up well known failed concepts which should have been left behind decades ago. Anything which produces a specific effect or adds character should simply be left in the archives. Loudspeakers whose cabinets resonate like a violin or other instrument should never see the light of day. Ditto speaker diaphragms with cones of some “natural” material which reproduces certain instruments with sympathetic resonances. 

Driver alignments on the baffle which create all kinds of interference and comb filtering and a host of other well known speaker design sins keep on being repeated. But not by the designers responsible for the speakers below. There may be better lineups of speaker designs out there but these are the ones we can vouch for in no particular order.

VANDERSTEEN

Vandersteen has dealt with minimization of baffle bounce, diffraction and phase alignment for many years. Add quality components, very solid cabinets and well honed design and you have loudspeakers which stand up well in any company over the long term. 

www.vandersteen.com

WILSON

Wilson has occupied the upper end of the loudspeaker market for many years. Obviously their design philosophy is far removed from Newform’s but we can’t ignore their dedication to quality. Their pricing may be over the top but they aren’t all hat. Quality of components, construction and finish plus installation service justifies their stratospheric cost. Also, we have to applaud David Wilson’s down to earth endorsement of affordable but superb electronics. Unique openness for a high ender. 

www.wilsonaudio.com

TOTEM

One of the few remaining pillars (totems?) of the once great Canadian loudspeaker industry, Totem makes very well designed and quality speakers with fine finishes in the mid-priced audiophile area. 

www.totemacoustic.com

MAGNEPAN

One of our favourite sounding speaker lines and the longest lasting panel speaker manufacturer, Magneplanars offer the transparency and detail that have made the classic panels favourites of audiophiles for decades. Apogees, Quads and Dayton-Wrights round out the first wave of truly great and groundbreaking planar loudspeakers. 

www.magnepan.com

ANTHONY GALLO

Innovation and a deep understanding of acoustics meets clever industrial design. 

www.roundsound.com

MBL

Basic physics re-defined in a design one would think would be impossible to make work. But it does work and very well. Industrial art and function nouveau. 

http://www.mbl-germany.de/Reference_html/101_e.html

PIPE DREAMS

A large line array design among the first to clearly demonstrated the advantages of the line source in home music systems. 

www.nearfieldacoustics.com

DR. BRUCE EDGAR’S EDGARHORNS

Although horns really should be relegated to the pages of history, Dr. Edgar’s horns manage to offer the advantages of horns - dynamics, efficiency and impact - while minimizing virtually all of the horns’ inherent flaws. Horn loudspeakers a Newform Research owner could live with. There can’t be any higher praise. 

www.edgarhorn.com

PARADIGM

Mass market without the hype - sound engineering and attention to detail shine through in a lineup which spans a wide price range. Their staying power is a tribute to their quality and sound for the $. Paradigm also deserves a gold star for their valiant attempts to maintain as much production as possible in North America. 

www.paradigm.com 

Although Newform feels its dynamic, wide dispersion Ribbons and Coaxial LineSource speaker arrays betters the competition in many areas, the above companies are solid audiophile citizens and deserve full credit for the excellent products they produce. 

Loudspeakers Unsurpassed in Soundstage, Transparency, Detail and Dynamics in High End Stereo and Home Theater Systems

Loudspeaker Aesthetics

AESTHETICS

 Newform Research loudspeakers are extremely high performance audio designs. But often life interferes with the pursuit of pure high fidelity. 

The dreaded WAF or SAF (spousal approval factor) can quash a music only decision and turn it into a lifestyle decision. 

Where a dedicated room is involved, the audiophile may have complete acoustic freedom. When musical performance is not the only factor in the purchasing decision, then both the looks of the loudspeaker and it’s placement in the room have to work with other considerations. 

Our loudspeakers look technically unique because they are very technically focussed. The cabinetry can be very handsome but for us, form follows function. Although Newform loudspeakers have a unique look, they can be integrated into room decor as well as any tall loudspeaker and considerably better than many of the $50,000+ behemoths which are widely available. 

We do custom speakers and grills so there are a few aesthetic options that are open to you when you come to the conclusion that Newform Research loudspeakers can deliver the audio performance you have been waiting for. 

 

Speaker Repair

Loudspeaker repair is generally quite simple if you have the right replacement woofer, midrange or tweeter and a soldering iron on hand but first we should say a few words about why speakers fail. 

Whether it is hifi stereo, home theater, sound reinforcement, automotive or PA loudspeakers, the most common cause of failure is too much of the wrong kind of power. Not too much available power. 

When overdriven, an amplifier “clips” the top off the sine waves it is trying to produce because it reaches its maximum voltage ceiling. This clipping effect produces a large amount of high frequency energy which goes straight to the tweeter. Tweeter burnout is the number one type of loudspeaker failure. 

A 200w per channel amp is less likely to fry tweeters than a 50w amp because it has so much more headroom and can produce a cleaner wave at higher power. 

Low power amplifiers can burn out any tweeter and low power amplifiers are more likely to be overdriven. If you hear the sound becoming hard or distorted, that is the sound of clipping. Back off!! 

The next is woofer burnout or overdriving which causes scaping or rattling. Crossover components rarely fail except in extreme cases. If you can see the woofer cones moving, they are being driven fairly hard. Use common sense. 

Once you have diagnosed the problem, you can call the dealer or service centre and decide if the speaker is worth repairing. 

If you can’t get any support or if you would like to tackle the repair yourself, here are some steps to consider. 

1. Pull out the defective driver. 

2. Do the battery test on it. A volt meter impedance tests works as well. Don’t be alarmed if your 8 Ohm speaker tests as low as 4.5 Ohms, that is a dc reading and the 8 Ohms is only nominal. 

3. If it is “dead”, time to track down a replacement. 

4. If it is live, then the issue is inside the enclosure (very rare) and you’ll have to pull the crossover.

A FEW TRICKS

How do you know your speaker has failed? Could it be a connection? Apply the voltage of a small 9 volt or smaller battery across the binding posts (with the amplifier speaker cables disconnected) and see if you get a lick or pop. If you do, the speaker is working to some degree. Check your wiring to the amp. 

If there is no sound or distorted sound, press gently in on the cone of the woofer with your fingers spread across the diaphragm. If it doesn’t move, it is fried with the voice coil melted and jammed in the magnetic gap. If it does move but scraping and scratching is audible, it may not be as bad but it probably indicates the driver still must be replaced. 

If the scraping goes away when you push on only one side of the cone, a mickey mouse fix is possible if you can’t get a replacement woofer. If this is a nothing to lose situation, take a piece of masking tape and stretch it over the baffle and over the side of the cone so the tape slightly presses on the rubber or foam surround. This can equate to your finger pressure. If this works, you can try something more permanent with duct tape. 

Note this is a last resort and the frequency response of the speaker will be affected. Also, taking off the tape may well rip the woofer surround. 

If it is difficult to pry the woofer or tweeter out of the baffle without damaging it, here is an option.  

Find a screw slightly larger than the screw hole on the frame of the driver. Turn the screw into this so it becomes jammed. No need to really force it in, just make it snug. 

Take a small wood block, place it on the baffle beside the screw and use a hammer to pull up the on the head of the screw. The driver should come up with it. 

Repairing Newform Research speakers is a little different. If a Ribbon fails, call us first. Absolutely do not take off the faceplate as this will result in further damage. Our Ribbons are extremely robust so failure is very unlikely. Our Ribbons require no maintenance. If you detect a problem of some kind, if the Ribbons are making sound, they are almost certainly working to spec. Look elsewhere for the problem and talk to us! 

Where can you get replacement speakers? The number one source in the USA is Madisound (www.madisound.com ) who is also a large supplier of loudspeaker kits for DIY projects. 

In Canada, Solen Electronics is the source (www.solen.ca). 

Loudspeakers Unsurpassed in Soundstage, Transparency, Detail and Dynamics in High End Stereo and Home Theater Systems 

 

Custom Home Theatre Installer

The custom home theater installer has to blend the conflicting issues of video and audio excellence with complex electronics into a simple to operate, aesthetically pleasing package.

Newform Research Ribbon systems can make the installers acoustic job a great deal easier providing the home theater room design allows for speaker placement clear of the front wall. Let’s be frank. Putting Newform Ribbon speakers inwall will work well enough but it is a huge waste of their potential. Rears and sides can be installed inwall as those channels are far less critical and sound field ambience may even benefit from the delays and reflections inherent in inwall placement. 

Given their high impedance, dynamics, broad horizontal dispersion and modularity, Newform Ribbon systems are configurable to virtually any application. Control of vertical dispersion is also a very useful characteristic of these Ribbons. Needless to say, their sound quality is also superb. 

Custom designs with a variety of high end midbass drivers in custom finished enclosures can be a great help in meeting high customer expectations for world class systems at realistic prices. The Coaxial Ribbon LineSource designs will allow you to offer your customer an unsurpassed acoustic experience. 

If you have a home theater or high end audio project which calls for ultra system musical performance, contact us to discuss it. 

Loudspeakers Unsurpassed in Soundstage, Transparency, Detail and Dynamics in High End Stereo and Home Theater Systems